Wiebe, Jakob Abram (1836-1921)
Jakob Abram Wiebe (1836-1921): a co-founder of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren (KMB) Church; was born 6 August 1836 in Margenau, Molotschna Mennonite settlement, South Russia, the oldest of the eight children of Jacob Wiebe (1805-1853) and Anna (Wiens) Wiebe (1810-1876), Mennonite immigrants from Prussia. On 11 April 1857 Jakob married Justina Friesen (5 December 1833, Halbstadt, Molotschna, South Russia – 29 November 1916, Gnadenau, Kansas, USA), daughter of Johann Daniel and Katharina Friesen. Jakob and Justina had four children: Katharina, Jacob, John, and Peter.
Through private study he acquired a practical education. In his early youth he was employed as driver for the Oberschulze and thus came in contact with the leading persons of the settlement and learned to draw conclusions and make his own decisions. This was the beginning of the reforms he later instituted.
Wiebe was baptized on Pentecost of 1856 and became a member of the Lichtenau Mennonite Church at Petershagen. In 1857, he married Justina Friesen from Halbstadt, and bought a small farm with an oil press in Orloff. In 1861 he moved to the Crimea, a new Mennonite settlement, and founded a home in the village of Annenfeld. Serious disappointments and even failures met them; but with courage, economy, and hard work they overcame them. In 1864 both joined the Kleine Gemeinde, the most conservative Mennonite group. On 4 December 1867, he was elected minister of this church and on Easter Day of 1869 he was ordained elder. But since even in this group he was unable to carry out the reforms he considered fundamental to Christian living, he with twelve others withdrew from the Kleine Gemeinde on 21 September 1869, and organized the "Krimmer Mennoniten - Brüdergemeinde" (Crimean Mennonite Brethren Church), baptizing by immersion, kneeling and dipping forward. Their aim was to live a fuller, more consecrated Christian life. A change in the Russian military law persuaded them to immigrate to America, and this group, about 40 families, found a new home in Marion County, Kansas, under Wiebe's leadership, arriving there on 17 August 1874. They settled in a village that they named "Gnadenau," and which became one of the first rural districts of European Mennonites in Kansas.
In spiritual difficulties Wiebe proved a dependable leader. He had acquired the art of setting broken bones and sprains; this was a special boon in a country where doctors were scarce. Both the new church and the village prospered and in a few years a church was built as a home center while groups were organized in the neighboring counties and states. On 10 September 1900, he ordained his younger brother Heinrich Wiebe (1845-1910) as elder in his place and retired for reasons of health, having served a total of 34 years. He died 23 June 1921, at Hillsboro, and is buried in the Gnadenau cemetery. His character was deeply religious. He was confident of the correctness of his organizing the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Church; he was a Mennonite to the innermost part of his heart. He was not a Calvinist, nor a millennialist; he was thoroughly saturated with principles of Menno Simons, even to the extreme. His private and family life was ideal and he had many friends. His death marked the passing of a departing age and the opening of a new era for the KMB Church.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.00 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2006: 13273.
Wiebe, P. A. Kurze Biographie des Bruders Jakob A. Wiebe, seine Jugend, seine Bekehrung, & wie die Krimmer Mennoniten Brüdergemeinde gegründet wurde. n.p, 1924.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 945. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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